The hues of historical homes: Watercolorist depicts Fort Russell district houses for self-guided Moscow tour

Gabriella Ball used to walk everywhere when she lived in Boise. She strolled down Harrison Boulevard and rode her bike on Warm Springs Avenue. The neighborhoods there were filled with mansions.

click to enlarge Gabriella Ball will have paintings featured at both the Prichard Art Gallery and the Moscow Chamber of Commerce. Above, is her painting of the Mark P. Miller home, circa 1911.
Gabriella Ball will have paintings featured at both the Prichard Art Gallery and the Moscow Chamber of Commerce. Above, is her painting of the Mark P. Miller home, circa 1911.

“I always loved them and was interested in historical preservation,” Ball said.

After moving to Moscow in 1985, she went on many home tours hosted by the Latah County Historical Society. Some of the same homes she toured then, she has painted now for Moscow Artwalk. Her work will be on display at the Moscow Chamber of Commerce and Prichard Art Gallery.

“I’m a realistic painter,” said Ball, who claims to be amateur watercolorist, but has improved since retirement. “I take photographs and try to reproduce them.”

click to enlarge The Alexander Ryrie home, circa 1893, is one of seven watercolor paintings that Gabriella Ball painted for the Moscow Artwalk. Self-guided walking tours of the homes take place Friday.
The Alexander Ryrie home, circa 1893, is one of seven watercolor paintings that Gabriella Ball painted for the Moscow Artwalk. Self-guided walking tours of the homes take place Friday.

She has painted seven of 116 properties that make up the Fort Russell district, which blossomed from 1889 to 1910, as the University of Idaho was getting started, said Mary Reed, 23-year member of the Latah County Historical Society, who is working with the Palouse Watercolor Socius.

Ball’s paintings include the Mark P. Miller House, circa 1911, 325 N. Polk St., and the McConnell House, circa 1886, 110 S. Adams St.

The Fort Russell district just northeast of downtown, Reed said, “was the nucleus of the financial, political and educational part of Moscow.”

Some families in the district owned mines, warehouses, a flour mill, sawmill and an electrical generating plant, according to “A Great Good Country,” a book by Lillian Otness that Ball read to learn about the history of some of the homes she painted.

William McConnell was an early settler in Moscow and once owned the entire block where he built his house in 1886, the book said. The establishment of the University of Idaho, the rich soil and railroads attracted entrepreneurs, who contributed to the building boom in the Fort Russell neighborhood and along Main Street, Otness wrote.

For those interested in seeing Ball’s house paintings and the houses themselves, the Latah County Historical Society will have pamphlets for a  self-led walking tour at the Moscow Chamber of Commerce exhibit. A brief historical description and photograph of six of the seven houses will be included with each painting.

Both the Prichard Art Gallery, which will display the Mark P. Miller home painting, and the Moscow Chamber of Commerce, which will display the other homes, will show Ball’s artwork through Aug. 3.

“I hope it encourages people to see these houses and have an appreciation of art and the skill it takes to interpret these houses,” Reed said.

An opening reception will take place 3-6 p.m. Friday, June 14, at the Moscow Chamber of Commerce, where Ball and members of the historical society will be on hand to answer questions.

Treffry can be contacted at ltreffry@inland360.com or (208) 883-4640.

-If you go: WHAT: Reception for Gabriella Ball’s watercolor paintings of historic Moscow houses WHEN: 3-6 p.m. Friday WHERE: Moscow Chamber of Commerce COST: Free

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